Spanish rider Joan Barreda Bort, riding a Husqvarna, won the second stage of the Dakar Rally on Sunday and took over the overall lead.
Barreda Bort won the 242km timed section in and around Pisco in Peru, which threw riders a stiff challenge of sand dunes and hot temperatures, in a time of two hours 42 minutes 31 seconds with compatriot Juan Pedrero Garcia, on a KTM second, 3min 12sec behind.
Australia's Matt Fish, on another Husqvarna, was third, 5min 53sec behind the leader.
Top SA rider Darryl Curtis, on a works KTM, finished a strong sixth on the stage, 7min49 off the pace, which leapfrogged him up seventh overall, 9min19 behind overall leader Barreda Bort.
Curtis said he had clung to some of the faster riders in the race, who dragged him though to his best stage finish in the Dakar.
“My navigation is not good, so I’m going to have to latch on to the top riders again and try and hold on to my position," he said.
Curtis' team mate Riaan van Niekerk, finished the stage in 38th place and was lying 33rd overall.
Brett Cummings, on a Honda, was almost 40 places further down the list in 75th, settling in 79th position overall.
In the quad section, Sarel van Biljon (E-ATV) completed the second stage in eighth place and remained eighth in the overall standings.
Van Niekerk, competing in his first Dakar, finished 15th in the 13km opening special stage at Pisco after a 250-kilometre liaison section from the start in the Peruvian capital of Lima. He was 33 seconds behind the winner, Francisco Lopez of Chile on a KTM.
Curtis, who finished 22nd in the 2012 Dakar Rally at his first attempt, was 25th on Saturday's special stage, 47 seconds behind Lopez.
“The first stage was cool, very motocross-like in the dunes around Pisco.”
Curtis said: “It was very hot - about 40 degrees - and the number of spectators who turned out to watch was overwhelming. There were thousands of them at the start in Lima and they lined the road all the way down the coast to Pisco.
“I was a bit distracted by the crowds on the liaison stage and hit a curb, landing upside down. Hopefully that won't happen again.”
Van Niekerk commented: “It was my first day on the Dakar and I'm pleased with how it went. The crowds were overwhelming - wanting to touch you and take photographs.”
The two South Africans, riding works KTM 450's, are among 183 motorcycles competing in the 34th Dakar Rally. The full field of 449 also includes 153 cars, 75 trucks and 38 quads.
The rally will end in Santiago, Chile on 20 January 20, 8400 kilometres from Lima, and includes 14 special stages covering 4 100 kilometres in Peru, Argentina and Chile. - AFP
RESULTS – STAGE 2
1 Joan Barreda Bort (Spain) Husqvarna - 2hr 42min 31sec
2 Juan Pedrero Garcia (Spain) KTM) +3min16sec
3 Matt Fish (Australia) Husqvarna) +5min53
4 Ruben Faria (Portugal) KTM +6min26
5 Kurt Caselli (United States0 KTM +7min10
6 Darryl Curtis (South Africa) KTM +7min49
7 David Casteu (France) Yamaha +8min08
8 Jordi Viladoms (Spain) Husqvarna +8min15
9 Jeremias Israel Esquerre (Chile) Honda +8min19
10 Pal Anders Ullevalseter (Norway) KTM +9min42
1 Joan Barreda Bort (Spain) Husqvarna - 3hr 24min 11sec
2 Ruben Faria (Portugal) KTM +5min36sec
3 Juan Pedrero Garcia (Spain) KTM +6min36
4 David Casteu (France) Yamaha) +6min58
5 Cyril Despres (France) KTM +8min50
6 Matt Fish (Australia) Husqvarna +9min18
7 Darryl Curtis (South Africa) KTM +9min19
8 Pal Anders Ullevalseter (Norway) KTM +9min27
9 Jordi Viladoms (Spain) Husqvarna +9min35
10 Jeremias Israel Esquerre (Chile) Honda +9min39